Together From Afar

I knew this Christmas was going to be different than any we had ever had. Not only could my sister, Jessica, and her doctor husband not make it for Christmas for the third year, but this year our youngest sister, Ashley, was deployed to Qatar over the holidays. We have a large family, five daughters, and this is the first year that only three of us were home.

Last night, Christmas Eve, we decided to all Skype Christmas morning for the traditional reading of the Christmas story from the Bible that my dad always does. This morning we awoke to the smells of all the baking we had done over the last couple of days and to the presents under the tree that we had all wrapped the night before. After the essential cup of coffee and gathering in the living room around the tree, Ashley video called from Qatar on my computer and Jessica called in from Boston on our oldest sister’s computer. We chatted for a while, very excited that we were all able to “see” each other on Christmas morning, and then we listened to the Christmas story. Ashley’s fiancé, Adam (who is already part of the family), even video called in for a minute.

It might not seem a very big deal, but as I sat there listening to the familiar sound of my dad’s calm, deep voice read the most important event in history out of the most important book in history and hearing my mom’s soft sniffles, so happy that we were all there “together”, it felt like a really big deal. It was a big deal and I am blessed to say that I got to spend Christmas with my whole family.


The Pick Broke

Those of you who don’t ardently follow my Facebook status probably don’t know that I did a super cool knew thing yesterday. I wasn’t even trying. It just sprang up on me unbidden but welcome, like a complementary appetizer sent from the kitchen at a restaurant where you know the chef, or a storm that rolls in overnight right in the middle of the hottest summer month. Or the chocolate that Sandra will sometimes bring into my office after lunch…

Music has been consuming me lately, which is a good thing, but it has taken me away from other things, namely, this blog. I apologize to those of you who care, or pretend to care because you love me.

This week’s new thing is probably my favorite new thing so far. I have been working a lot on my guitar technique; writing music and playing every chance I get. So, last night I was working on a song I’ve known for a bit but still can’t play right, and I was concentrating really hard. It was sounding really really good, when all of a sudden it felt like I was playing with a soft pick, instead of the mediums that I prefer. The pick felt really flimsy and the sound changed, so I stopped to see what I was doing wrong and that’s when I realized it. I was rocking so hard I broke the pick in half! I’m not going to try to lie to you. I felt a little bit rock star at that moment and not just a little cool. I felt super cool. Yes, I realize saying “I felt super cool” makes me not cool at all.

As my friend Billy put it, I’ve graduated. I am now part of that group of musicians that has played with such enthusiasm, such commitment, that the pick broke in their hand. Next, I aim to break a string.


It's Mine

As I write this I am sitting in my new apartment. It is a junior one bedroom with a small kitchen, a walk-in closet, and a nice little bathroom. The location is great; right in my favorite part of the San Fernando Valley that has my preferred Ralphs and not just a few eclectic cafés (pun intended). It is exactly what I wanted and perfect for me. But what really makes this apartment extra fantastic, what makes it not just a little bit great, is that the only name on the lease is mine.

I’ve been living in Los Angeles for just over four years. When I moved out here from Arizona, I was going to school and I lived in Hollywood at Park La Brea. I have the kind of wonderful, supportive parents that wanted me to be able to focus on school and not have to worry about working enough to pay for rent, so they paid my bills while I was attending The American Musical and Dramatic Academy. Even though I lived in that apartment by myself, it was not mine. I contributed nothing and felt very badly about that, but at the same time, was grateful beyond words that I had an opportunity that many kids don’t get; the opportunity to focus purely on my passion.

After I got out of school, my sister, Jaimie, moved out to LA to pursue dancing and we got a place together. We lived in a great double master apartment on Ventura in Studio City, had tons of fun, and loved sharing our lives together. It was a nice apartment complex and I, being 20, needed a co-signer, so my parents gladly volunteered. Did I mention I have amazing parents? I lived in that apartment for over two years, and then decided that I was spending too much money. I wanted to be able to save, and I wasn’t able to save with the job I had combined with where I was living. So, I moved out and into a one bedroom apartment in Hollywood with my good friend, Kendall.

The plan was to live with Kendall for five-ish months and save enough money to move to Boston in October. Needless to say, I came to the conclusion that LA is the place I need to be for now. I still want to be in Boston with every cell of my being, but that’s another subject entirely. Living with Kendall was great, but once again, it was not my apartment, I wasn’t even on the lease. Also, I’m allergic to cats and she has two. If I liked cats I would love hers (because they are very lovable), but I don’t, so I don’t. It’s not personal.

So, this past weekend I moved out and into this cozy little nook I call my own. This is the first time I signed a lease by myself, without a co-signer or a roommate, and it’s the first time I can truly say that this is MY apartment. I am thrilled.


These Words Are My Diary Screaming Out Loud

Sitting home on Saturday playing my guitar, I thought, “It’s probably about time I put some sort of recording of myself singing out there.” I’ve been in LA for four years, half of that time doing Musical Theatre, and I have no recordings of myself singing (which is just ridiculous). Consequently, most people I know in LA, who are not part of my Musical Theatre world, did not even know that I sing till this last year or so. I wanted to play my guitar and sing so I picked the song that I am the most familiar with, making it the easiest. I chose “The Thief” by Brooke Fraser. It is the first song I learned to play when I started seriously studying the guitar just over a year ago.

I could have recorded myself playing that song over and over till it was flawless, and in the future I probably will, but this time I needed to put it up the way it came out the first time. It was hard for me to post the recording I took because I have always been a perfectionist when it comes to my voice, and now to my guitar playing. That’s probably part of the reason I’ve never recorded anything. If I can’t do it perfectly I don’t want to do it. I’m aware that that is a terrible attitude to have and I’m working on it, which is why I decided to post the video I did, mistakes and all. And believe me, there were mistakes. But it was important for me to put it up anyway. Why? Because I was scared to. Almost nothing scares me, so I have a need to make myself do the random things I find that do scare me. I refuse to be scared.

For a person who needs to be perfect in my artistic pursuits I sure chose a couple revealing avenues of life; music and writing. They are both absurdly revealing occupations to have. Whenever I write a song or a poem I always think about the lyrics in Anna Nalick’s song that was everywhere for a while, “Breath”. You remember it, right? In the last verse of the song she says, “And I feel like I’m naked in front of a crowd, cause these words are my diary screaming out loud, and I know that you’ll use them however you want to.” That’s exactly how it is. You can’t hide when you sing, when you play music, when you write. If you try to hide in those things you will be unsuccessful and boring. I want to be neither. However, I’m aware that to be neither I’m going to have to start out being at least a little bit of both. And, honestly, I’m ok with that.


My Private Retreat

This week I started a private, personal health and spiritual wellness retreat. It didn’t start out that way, though. It started out as a “get hot” plan for ACL, a music festival called Austin City Limits that a couple friends and I are going to in October. I really just wanted to get into shape and then I realized my physical body is not the only thing that needs a little work. I’m sorry to say that my relationship with God needs some work. But I didn’t stop there. Not only did I want to work on my body and my relationship with God, I wanted to work on my music too. I rarely have time to write music since I work so far away from home all day long and most weekends, so I decided it was time to stop complaining and fix that as well.

My plan consists of this: For my body I am working out five times a week, not eating any dairy (which is a lot easier than it sounds), and not drinking any alcohol. For my spirit I am making it a priority to read my Bible, an amazing book called “Waking the Dead” by John Eldredge (which I enthusiastically recommend to anyone who wants to see the world through the eyes of their heart), and spending time talking to God every day. For my music I must practice and/or write something each evening before I do anything else fun. These three things make up my private retreat and I’m doing this for five weeks. It actually takes a lot of time to accomplish these three things before I do anything else, but if that's all I have time for every day for the next five weeks, then that's all I have time for.

I’m on day four and doing great, so far. Peace has been surrounding me for the last couple days and I’m positive it has something to do with the focus I am putting on keeping my awareness on God at all times. That part is hard, I have to admit. My mind wanders, I start to worry, I make grandiose plans for my future, and I forget to include God in my decisions. But then I realize what I’m doing and put my mind back on track.

I’m starting to crave cheese….

This is the first week. I’ll let you know how it goes at the end of week five. Send me your prayers and vegan baked goods.


I Can See You

The wonderful world of Skype. The pathway between your world and mine; not just verbally, but visually as well. Now we can do more than just talk to each other over the phone, being forced to keep up a good pace with the conversation, feeling awkward when there’s nothing to say, because if there are no words then nothing is going on. All of a sudden we have the ability to hang out with someone across the country, even across the world! You virtually in my room with me, me in yours with you. Does this sound a little too close for comfort to anyone else?

I hate talking on the phone. It doesn’t matter who you are and it’s not personal at all, but most of the time I just don’t want to talk. However, I text all day every day. Side note: If you ever need to get a hold of me, just text. Sometimes I won’t check my voicemail for days. So, you’d think video chatting would seem like a welcome relief to me. But no, I always thought of it as a more involved, high maintenance phone call. I enjoy the freedom that text gives me to answer when I want, think of a witty reply, and deliver it with exactly the right punctuation to get across my true meaning. Why would I want to video chat and be forced to have an actual conversation when I can just shorthand what I want to say in 160 characters or less?

Then, last night, my younger sister, Ashley, (whom I love dearly and always answer the phone for) rang me up on Skype. I hesitated for just a moment, purely out of my prejudice against video chat, and then accepted the call. I was immediately greeted by my lovely little sister’s face. We spent the next hour and a half or so talking, sharing videos online, getting to watch each other as we laughed at the stuff the other person said from hundreds of miles away, and sitting in unawkward silence as one person or the other took care of stuff in the room.

I’m just going to admit it. I couldn’t stop looking at myself in that little box in the corner! Not admiring myself, but just looking. It was my face right there with all my reactions and no makeup. I did not care for that at all. Also, even though it was just my sister, I kept feeling like I needed to fix my hair. “I can look better than this” kept flitting through my mind. I swear it was not vanity that made me think that. I tend to avoid mirrors (unless I feel something clinging to my face, I’d just rather not know) and this was like Ashley was sitting there in front of me hold up a mirror and forcing me to watch myself as I talked. That’s going to take a little getting used to.

We said goodbye, ended the video call, and then she was gone. As close as I am with my family, I don’t know why I hadn’t Skyped before now. I can see why so many people find it useful and I’m sure I’ll start to ring up my sisters and Mom. I may even add a couple friends that still love me with frizzy hair and no makeup.


Alone At The Movies

Seeing a movie by yourself always seemed a little weird to me. Every time I go to the movies with a friend and see an old man sitting there all by himself it makes me sad and I start wondering if he's there alone because he has no one else, or because his wife died, and that's how I feel about going to see a movie alone. I feel like it's a little sad and pathetic. However, I have friends that see movies by themselves because they like it. They are not sad or pathetic and it made me wonder if I would like it too.

So, a few nights ago I had nothing entertaining to do, I had not done anything recently I wanted to write about, and I wanted to see a movie that none of my friends wanted to see, so I went alone. I went to an 8:30 pm showing of The Ugly Truth at The Grove in my pajamas and with my hair as curly as I could get it (I always feel better when my hair is curly, as opposed to straightening it, and if it turned out to be a bad experience I at least wanted to have great hair). I smuggled in some chocolate and a beverage, picked a center seat in a row that was slightly further back than most people like to sit, curled my feet up on the chair next to me, and did not say a word the whole movie.

When the credits started rolling I got right up and left the theatre, which I always want to do, but I inevitably end up going with someone who needs to know who played "girl at the party", or who wants to see if they put any bloopers at the end. I don't care about that at all and I didn't have to pretend like I do.

It wasn't awkward either. I thought I might feel like a loser sitting there all by myself, not talking to anyone. I imagined people looking at me and thinking, "poor girl couldn't get a date", but it did not matter in the least what anyone was thinking. I know, thinking that people cared if I was there alone or not is pretty egotistical. I apologize for my slightly inflated ego on that subject.

Bottom line, I liked going to the movies alone! I'm the type of person who enjoys doing most things alone anyway, so I should have known I would like this too.


I Did A Brave Thing

I did a brave thing this week. This week I stepped outside the boundaries I had set up for myself. I weighed the pro's and con's, made lists and arguements, backed out a few times, and in the end I threw all of that away and just said what I needed and wanted to say, without apology. I immediately felt like throwing up.

Being honest is scary, especially when you stand to lose something or be rejected. What I had to decide is this: Is it worth it to be scared and go for it anyway?

For the past four years I have not let myself get into a situation where I could be emotionally at risk. I refused to take a leap of faith because, really, how often do you get caught? It might be a while before someone catches you with the correct finesse. Too much could go wrong and I might hit the ground too hard and I might even (gasp!) cry! So, I'd just rather not try. That is honestly how I felt about the whole "putting yourself out there" thing. I know I'm not alone in this.

But all of that had to come to an end some time. So, I made a decision. I was ballsy-er than I have every been before. Oh my Lord, was I ballsy! And you know what? It actually worked out.

Is there something completely outside the box that you want to do? Is there something you want to say to someone but can't build up the courage? I know, it seems like a fail/fail situation. Never in a million years is it going to work out the way you are imagining it. You realize you are saying things to yourself like, "If this was a movie it would happen like this", and then it seems even more impossible because we don't live in a movie. This is real life and real life never works out the way you want it too! At least, that's what it feels like, isn't it? But sometimes, every once in a while, there is something that is so important it's worth going for it. It's worth it to admit to yourself that you are terrified and do it anyway. Because sometimes it does work out the way you imagine it will.

I did a brave thing this week. You should too.


My First Time At Fenway

Author's note: I will be putting up several postings this week since I am in Boston and will be sure to experience something new every day.

We waited in line for an hour and a half to be sure that we would get tickets; my sister, Jessica, and I. I’m not what you would refer to as a baseball fan and I’d never been to a game at Fenway Park before, but every movie I’d ever seen about it and every story I’d ever heard about it made me sure it was yet another part of Boston I would fall in love with.
Sitting on the curb in line, I looked out over the street at Gate D. I could feel the excitement mounting in the air as the food and clothing vendors took their places and were immediately swarmed by fans. You can imagine that these are the exact spots the vendors take every game day. A personal tradition as important outside the stadium as “Sweet Caroline” is inside the stadium.

In the movies it always looks like a huge party where everyone is smiling, having fun and what appears to be the best day of their lives. It is no different in real life. Actually, Boston as a city feels like a big Fair. There’s always something tasty in a food cart on every corner, there are people playing music in random places, and everyone looks like they are having a good time! But I digress.

Fenway is a street fair all its own with street performers on stilts, foam fingers, and tons of food including (what else) the Fenway Frank. Jessica and I each got a frank first thing when we entered the stadium. There was a lot of hype built up around this little dog and I was anxious to try one. I wouldn’t dare tarnish the name of the Fenway Frank by saying anything other than it was delicious, which it was. But we didn’t stop there, oh no. During the course of the game we shared French fries, cotton candy, and peanuts in the shell (which went a hundred times better than the sunflower seeds!). We had planned on also getting nachos, but were too full by the eighth inning to get anything else.

The Red Sox were playing the Oakland A’s that day. The spirit of Red Sox’s fans showed when a player on the A’s who had been on the Sox last season got up to bat for the first time (I don’t remember his name. I know, that’s terrible journalism. I am not proud of myself). The entire stadium stood to their feet and gave him a standing ovation for at least a full minute. It was truly touching and was a wonderful example of how loyal Sox fans are. It had a feeling about it of “once you are in the family you are always in the family”. Very Italian/Irish mafia.

I can understand why Bostonians feel about baseball the way they do. I’d been to baseball games before, but somehow it felt different here. It was like its own little culture and every stranger was welcomed in with open arms (as long as they weren’t wearing a Yankees jersey) and given food and a nice place to sit and watch all that happened. Even though the Red Sox lost, it was still a good time and I would go back to Fenway Stadium again in a heartbeat. If I lived here I might even become a real baseball fan.


Arriving Bagless in Boston

Author's note: I will be putting up several new posts this week, as I am in Boston and will surely be experiencing new things every day.

I love traveling, especially at night. I’m not sure what it is, but traveling in the dark makes me feel cozy and free. That is why I took the red eye to Boston on Saturday night. That and I didn’t want to spend an entire day of my vacation traveling. I left LAX at midnight and arrived in Boston at 10:00 AM. My bag, however, did not.

I had a connecting flight in Baltimore around 7:30 AM, but my flight from LA had been delayed about an hour. I had 20 minutes after we arrived in Baltimore to get to my connecting flight. That apparently was not enough time for the baggage handlers to sort and reassign the bags of the seven of us who were flying through to Boston. It might just be naiveté on my part, but I feel that there could be a better baggage system like, say, put the bags that need to get onto connecting flights all together in one easily accessible spot so they are the first ones to be removed from the plane. I know, it sounds too crazy to actually work, right?

The first thing I did when my plane landed at my final destination was find a restroom so I could brush my teeth, fix my hair, and apply a little mascara (I had, after all, been traveling all night). I took my time because I’m on vacation and that’s what I like to do when I’m on vacation. When I sauntered back to the baggage claim I ran into a guy who had been on my same flights. I smiled a very relaxed, unassuming smile at him and he looked at me and said, “Are you missing your bag too?” “I don’t know”, I replied. “I haven’t looked for it yet.”

After establishing that our bags were not going to magically appear on the now empty and still carousel, the seven of us who had come from LA marched over to the office of the airline carrier we were with. We each took our turns talking with the two friendly guys as the counter, describing our bags and giving our personal information so that our luggage could be delivered later in the day after they arrived on the next plane from Baltimore. “I’m pretty sure they should be on that flight”, Obanit assured us. Comforting.

When my sister, Jessica, her husband, Torre, and I got back to their apartment I called the airline to see what the deal was so that we could make plans for the rest of the day. Obanit said that he had just handed my bag over to the delivery service and gave me their number. I wanted to see if someone had to be there to sign for the bag or if they would just leave it inside the main door of the building so that we could go into town.

The conversation with the man I reached at the delivery service went like this, I kid you not:

Me: Hi you guys just picked up my bag from (the airlines name) and I was wondering if I have to be here to sign for it when you drop it off or if you can just leave it inside the main door of the building.

Delivery man (Derrick): What’s your address?

Me: yada yada yada, Boston, zip code

Derrick: We don’t have your bag yet we will call you when we get it.

Me: Really? The guy at the airport said you picked it up already.

Derrick: Ma’am, Ma’am, Ma’am Ma’am! We do not have your bag! This is the warehouse and we do not have your bag yet!

Me: Oh, I didn’t know I was callin-

Derrick: Ma’am, Ma’am, you need to wait for us to call you!

Me: I just was wondering if I’m going to have to sign for it or if you can just leave it.

Derrick: What is the first thing you said when I told you we don’t have your bag yet? What is the first thing you said when I told you we don’t have your bag yet?!

Me: You don’t have to talk to me that way, I’m just asking a question.

Derrick: You are not listening to a word I’m saying.

Me: I am I just want to know-

Derrick: You did not hear a word I said! What is the first thing you said when I told you we don’t have your bag yet?!

Me: Are you really yelling at me right now? Just tell me if you generally leave the bag or if you generally make someone sign for it.

Derrick: Not on that street we won’t leave it!

Me: Thank you! *click*

That is how the actual conversation went. I was so pissed off when I got off the phone. And it didn’t end there. I fell asleep waiting for the delivery guy to get there and I woke up to my phone ringing. When I answered it was my old buddy Derrick.

Me: Hello?
Derrick: Ma’am we have been calling you and calling you! Did you call me about a bag? My guy has been calling and ringing your doorbell and you have not answered! Did you not call me about
your bag?
Me: I did not hear the bell and I haven’t had any calls.
Derrick: Yes we have been calling you! I can’t believe this. You need to go outside right now because he is there. Did you not call me about your bag????!!
Me: Just tell him to come back. I’m going outside right now. *click*

I went outside and the driver pulled up. He was a very nice, little man who gave me the name of the man I had been talking to, Derrick, the name of his supervisor, Jason, and the next time Jason would be in the office. Jason will be hearing from me about the ridiculously unacceptable service I received. The whole thing was surreal, in a bad way.
So, I got my bag back, everything was in it, I got yelled at twice by a stranger, we wasted hours of my first day here waiting to hear from the delivery people, and I got the experience of my bag being lost on a flight. All in all I think it was a success.


Children Underground

So far my little blog here has been about me experiencing new, pleasant, and amusing (I hope) things. As I was wondering what I would write about this week, I thought back to a documentary film I watched on Monday. It is called “Children Underground” and was directed by Edet Belzberg. The story follows five homeless children living in a subway station in Bucharest, Romania. Thinking about this film I realized that I may not have done something I’ve never ever done before (I’ve seen documentaries), but I learned something I did not know. I had no idea about this devastating, true story and I’m betting you don’t know about it either.

Romania’s former communist leader, Nicolae Ceaucescu, banned all forms of contraception and abortion in an attempt to increase the country’s workforce. As a result, 20,000 children were born into homes that did not want them or could not care for them. They were born into impoverished families, broken homes, and abusive situations. Many of these children ran away from home and ended up living on the streets either alone, or in groups.

“Children Underground” closely follows the stories of five of these children.

Christina- She is a teenage girl who has decided that only boys can survive in this world because of the way she was treated in the orphanage as a young girl. She shaves her head, dresses as a boy, and has adopted a very tough, mean, street exterior. She is the leader of the group of kids living in the subway and in the private moments that she is interviewed by the documentary crew, she shows glimpses of a young girl who has been wronged in many ways and just wants someone she can rely on to love her.

Ana- She is 10 years old. She ran away from home, the first time, alone. She then went back, broke in at night, and took her little brother with her. He is 8 years old. She will not say why she ran away from home, but when her Stepfather is interviewed it is plain to see that, although he was not unkind or harmful to Ana and her brother, he was fed up with his wife’s children and did not hide it. It was sad to see Ana start using the vulgar speech of the other street children towards the end of the documentary. Clearly, she was trying to be what she thought she needed to be to live in that environment.

Marian- Marian is the 8 year old brother of Ana. He does not want to live on the street, but is willing to do anything his sister wants just to be with her. Ana and Marian are extremely close, always together, even when Christina makes Ana beg for money all night to pay a shopkeeper back for a bottle she broke. Marian begs too until his little body can take the exhaustion no more and he walks, crying, back to the subway.

Macarena- She is called Macarena because she likes to dance so much while she was in the orphanage. She is probably the saddest case in this documentary because she is 14 and completely hooked on inhaling paint. All the kids do it throughout the entire documentary, even little Marian, because they say it makes them not hungry anymore. But Macarena is always high, mumbling incoherently, crying, and accusing people of not treating her the right way. A man in the subway beats her as she is high for no apparent reason. She struggles, screaming and crying, until Christina breaks it up and takes her away. She says, “People give me money for food but I buy paint, because if I get one bottle I’m no longer hungry. It’s like paradise! You dream that you eat, and I can’t give it up.”

Mihai- While watching the documentary I fell in love with this obviously intelligent, little boy. He is 12 and has been living on the street since he was 8. He does what he needs to do with a calm, seemingly grownup exterior. He says he likes living on the street because it allows him to “live freely”. His one complaint of street life is that there is no one there to educate him. He wants to go to school and “have a skill in life”. Mihai ran away from home because his father drinks and beats him, which his father denied when being interviewed, and is clearly afraid to go back. A social worker arranged for Mihai to go home and get his papers, because without them he cannot enroll in school, and at the last minute little Mihai freezes up and refuses to go into his house. Two of the adults go for him while two stay with him, but his mother will not give up his papers.

There is so much more to these children, I could write a book trying to explain them to you. I encourage you to see the documentary. It is saddening, enlightening, enraging, and compelling. Who will help these children? Who will love them, hold them and tell them it will be ok? It might not be ok for them. They are living in a hopeless world while desperately trying to wipe the mud from their eyes that is being slung at them every day, just so they can catch a glimpse of light. And most of them are failing miserably.

In my good natured search for knowledge and experiences I’ve never had before I came across this film. When I initially sat down to watch it I didn’t think about the fact that the stories in it would be real. The people in it are real. The situations they are living in are worse than a two hour glimpse can convey. From this weeks “new thing” I am taking away the fresh realization that I need to do more things I’ve never done before and learn more things I didn’t know before, about things that matter.


The Art of Eating Sunflower Seeds

The first thing you need to know is that the drive between Lake Havasu City, my home town, and Barstow, the city you have to drive through to get from Havasu to Los Angeles, is about two and a half hours long. It’s not a scenic two and a half hours that go by fast because it is such a pleasant drive with lots of pretty things to look at. Its two and a half hours of desert and sun and the occasional small cluster of houses that look abandoned, but aren’t... And when it’s dark it’s just a long drive of darkness with the occasional headlight. I have driven this long long road about one hundred times in my life. That’s right, the drive between Barstow and Havasu was so long and boring that on the way to Havasu my sister and I actually took the time to figure out how many reasons we have had in our lifetimes to drive this route and then crunched the numbers to come up with about one hundred times. It is, unfortunately, pretty accurate.

Well, this time I was all by myself and I had already listened to a Jim Gaffigan CD and was bored with all my easily accessible music. As I sat there, wondering what I could do to amuse myself, I looked over and saw the bag of sunflower seeds that Ashley had left in my car from our drive home. I don’t normally enjoy sunflower seeds, but seeing as how I was still a good hour/hour and a half from Barstow, I decided to try something. On the drive home I had seen Ashley eat them by the mouth full, spitting the seeds into a paper cup. I’d never done this, but it looked easy enough, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I honestly thought it was going to be very simple. Why wouldn’t it be? It’s just sunflower seeds, for crying out loud. A good way to keep myself occupied while I was driving with nothing else to do plus, I’d get a snack!

So, I grabbed the bag of seeds and poured a bunch into my hand. They were covered with a yellow, cheddar flavored powder, which then got all over my hands and jeans. Great start. As I tossed the forty or fifty seeds into my mouth I briefly wondered if that was too many. My thoughts were immediately confirmed when I realized that to break one of them open I had to shove the rest of them to the sides of my mouth, out of the way. There wasn’t enough room! Seeds that I had moved between my cheeks and my teeth on both sides of my mouth kept falling out and getting in the way as I tried to break open a miniscule seed with my teeth (Have you ever noticed how small those things are?).

As I tried to gracefully maneuver a single seed into position, get out the itty bitty edible part, and swiftly spit the shells into a cup I noticed a car coming up on my passenger side. It was also at that moment I realized that I was doing these things neither gracefully nor swiftly. I felt like a young cowboy trying to impress his older peers with his tobacco chewing and spitting skills, but failing completely to do it even half as skillfully as they could with their years of experience. I was getting the shells all over the place and I looked like a chipmunk with his cheeks stuffed to bursting with nuts. Not wanting anyone, even a complete stranger driving past me, to witness my messy first attempt at eating Sunflower seeds, I quickly lowered the cup and tried to suck my cheeks in as much as possible. I think I stopped breathing too and I can only imagine the plastic look on my face as I tried to look normal. I’m sure I failed completely.

Out of that first mouthful I think I ate a totally of ten seeds and twenty shells. The rest escaped into the cup every time I spit. For my second attempt I decided to put about ten seeds in my mouth. That worked a lot better, but I still had trouble separating the tiny seeds from the shattered shells. In the end I decided that I don’t like my food to be such hard work to get to. And also, I don’t like the taste of shells. Laugh at me if you want, but this is an art, people. Eating Sunflower seeds by the mouthful is not just a pastime, it is a skill. Try it. It’s not as easy as you think.


A Pleasant Stink

My sister, Ashley, and her boyfriend, Adam, were in town earlier this week and they decided that they wanted to try the Stinking Rose. A whole menu made around garlic sounded a little bit overkill to me but Adam is a big fan of garlic and I, being somewhat of an amateur I-think-I-can-make-anything chef, was interested in trying it as well.

Walking into the Stinking Rose, on La Cienega in Hollywood, I was surprised to see that it was rather dark. I had only seen it from the outside before and I had assumed, from the nondescript, white building, that it would have a normal amount of light, like most restaurants. There were tables and booths that had canopies of draped, rich cloth and snakes of garlic adorning the walls. The colors stayed close to the dark theme, being deep shades of red, green, gold, and blue. The whole place had the feeling of coven being taken over, the original decorations remaining intact, and shielded from being taken back by the previous occupant with a plethora of garlic. I liked it.

Our pleasant waiter smiled his “I know I’m being overly nice, but I need your money” smile and took our drink and appetizer order. We went for simplicity for the first part of the meal with a small, cast iron skilled filled with roasted cloves of garlic in oil. They were caramelized and soft enough to be spread over the soft dinner roles that come with every visit. Delicious. There was a little dish on every table filled with a spread of what tasted like diced fresh garlic and parsley in oil. The raw garlic made it a little spicy and it paired wonderfully with the caramelized garlic appetizer. As we enjoyed the beginning of our meal, Ashley and Adam talked about how the smell of garlic seeps out of your skin if you eat too much. According to them, you can’t get rid of the smell for days. After telling them to stop being disgusting and that it is not true, I decided I’d had enough garlic appetizer and that I was going to wait for my food. Purely coincidental.

Ashley, who is not a very big eater, got the shrimp Caesar salad; Adam, who eats everything, got a huge seafood platter with mussels, shrimp, and crab, all of it coated in a very garlicky butter (with more on the side, of course); and I got Gnocchi with asparagus in a garlic, gorgonzola sauce. In case you are not familiar, Gnocchi is a small potato dumpling, most often described as potato pasta. It’s very good, but can be heavy and doughy tasting if not made correctly. Their Gnocchi was actually called Gnoccheti, which just meant that the Gnocchi was smaller than the normal size, and very light and fluffy. My asparagus was a little overcooked, but the sauce was to die for. It was thick and rich with just the right amount of garlic and a hint of gorgonzola, which can be an overwhelming cheese. I would definitely order it again (on a calorie splurge day).

Ashley got a Caesar salad, so how much can I say about that? You can never go wrong with a Caesar salad. Adam’s mussels were a little burned, but the crab was superb and the shrimp were cooked just right (he let me try some).

I wouldn’t recommend it as a date place, if only for the high garlic factor, but I would love to go back with a group of friends or on a night that I need some alone time, sit at the bar, order some seafood and a glass of white wine, and just be. And no, I did not smell like garlic the next day.


A New Happy Place

Anyone who has known me for more than a day knows that I am in love with sandals and flip flops. Exclusively. My mom once grounded me from wearing sandals for a whole month because Sunday after Sunday I repeatedly wore flip flops to church even though I was told to wear real shoes a hundred times. It was the worst month of my life. Another time she forced me to buy a pair of ballerina flats (of which I picked the softest, most flexible ones I could find) because I was wearing sandals in the middle of winter. I asked for a basket filled with sandals for my birthday last year and I got it! Feel free to repeat that present every year, Mom and Dad.

When there is fear of frostbite I will wear my Uggs (I could not care less if they are in style or not, they are really comfortable) and I will, of course, wear heels if the occasion demands it, but I am never happy about it and you will find a pair of sandals in my purse or car.

Knowing my love of shoes that let your feet breath, paired with my love of a good deal on sandals, Kendall took me to her favorite shoe store yesterday. It is called Top Shoes and from now on that is where I will be if you can’t find me. This store is ridiculous. There are hundreds of shoes, ranging from flip flops to spiky hooker heels, 90% of them priced from $10-$20 with a few thrown in there for no more than $40. Browsing the shelves of trendy, not so trendy, unique, and traditional sandals I was so happy I felt a little silly. I do not enjoy shopping, but I easily spent an hour and a half in this tiny store in Westwood, taking my time looking through the vast selection.

If I was not so uncomfortable in heels (and not so awkwardly tall in them) I would have gotten at least a few of the stylish options they carried. From platforms and wedges, to traditional stilettos and rocker looking, spiked heels, there was a style for every girl you know. Kendall, however, picked three especially hot pairs:

In the end I decided on four pairs if sandals, even though I wanted about twelve.

The store itself is not impressive looking. From the outside you would probably think everything in it is crap. Actually, walking in you would probably think everything in it is crap. It’s not wonderfully organized and it is small and crowded and at times a little smelly. But all these things together make for an amazing place to find a treasure that you will wear with a secret pride at the way you found it for years to come. Plus, it always makes you feel special to answer a question like “Where did you get those shoes?” with, “This little place I found…”. And believe me, people will ask.


Two Dreams In One Place

I was greeted to the Larchmont Farmer’s Market by a dozen small dogs of different ages, all looking for someone to love them. Some were full grown and others had the distinctive, sleepy look of a baby on their tiny, fuzzy faces. One little, black dachshund jumped up and down against his wire enclosure. Wagging his tail delightedly, he seemed equally impressed by every person who passed by. “Which one of you lucky people gets to take me home?” he seemed to say. Wishing I could have the honor, but knowing I can’t, I tickled a fluffy puppy’s head falling asleep in the arms of a child standing next to me, and forced myself to move on toward the rest of the market.

“Ok. So, there are certain people we go to for each thing we want to get. This guy here has the best lettuce”, Kendall said to me at the first stand. She was acting as my guide to this particular farmer’s market since it was the first time I’d been to it and she had gone many times before. After selecting the plumpest head of lettuce and a moderate sized red onion we strolled along, getting bright red tomatoes on the vine from one guy and dimpled, juicy oranges from another. We worked our way through the covered booths, picking the best of what we wanted along the way.

Passing by one stand, we stopped to taste the different types of homemade hummus that vendor was selling. There was sun dried tomato and basil hummus, artichoke hummus, spicy red pepper hummus, and a few others with crispy, light pita chips for us to dip with. While the sun dried tomato and basil one was truly fabulous, I decided on the artichoke because that’s the kind of mood I was in. I threw in some fresh, whole wheat pita and started to look forward to my lunch the next day.

Even though this was one of the smaller farmer’s markets I had been to, the whole place buzzed with activity, conversation, and fresh smells that perked up your senses and made you feel awake and energized. Adding to the pleasant aroma and general pleasant feeling of the day were the flower stands at both ends of the market. As I looked at the colorful array of options, I pictured myself walking back to the car, arms full of giant, golden sunflowers and deep purple irises (wrapped in brown paper like you see in the movies, of course) to be arranged in a big, clear vase, displayed on the mosaic table in the kitchen, and enjoyed all day long. I quickly remembered that I am rarely home and when I am it is usually dark outside. Those gorgeous flowers would be wasted on the cats. So, resignedly, I filed my flower buying dreams away in the back of my mind with my dreams of owning a dog, in a folder called “3-5 Years From Now”.

The entire excursion was short, about fifteen minutes, but I have yet to be disappointed by an outdoor market full of fresh fruit, vegetables, and flowers and this one was no exception.


The beginning of Something New

“Any ideas what my blog should be about?” I posed this question on our lunch break to three friends/co-workers sitting around the table in the kitchen at work. Three blank faces stared back at me. I had just informed them that I had decided to become a freelance writer. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it sooner, since it’s the perfect job for me. It is creative and flexible enough to fulfill my artistic side, and at the same time, intellectual enough to be considered a legit profession. There were four important factors I had to consider when sifting through my professional options: 1) I want to be my own boss and make my own schedule 2) I want a schedule flexible enough to have a dog 3) I want to be able to stay home with my eventual kids and 4) I want a job that will give me time to work on my true passion, which is music. Conclusion: Freelance writer. I doubt you will be able to argue my sound logic.

This brought me to starting a blog. I have always written poetry and short stories. I journal religiously and read ravenously. But I have never had a blog before. At first I was excited; there are so many possibilities! I can write about whatever I want! I will gain hundreds of thousands of followers and my reputation will rival award winning journalists from around the world! My second, more lucid thought went like this: “Wait a minute…what if no one wants to read it? What if people don’t like what I have to say? What if my punctuation is terrible?” I mulled over my fears and insecurities about putting my heart and opinions out for everyone to read and judge for a day and a night. Then I remembered a quote we have all heard. “If you want to fly you have to be willing to fall.” Yes, it’s a little corny, but it’s exactly what I needed to hear. That made the decision easy. Hell yes, I want to fly! I’m sure I will fall countless times and yes, it will hurt, but who cares? I will, however, offer one tiny disclaimer right now, but don’t expect any more. I do not claim to be a great writer, I simply claim that one day I will be. With this take-on-the-world attitude I made a firm decision to start a blog.

I had invited emails and late night calls from my three co-workers if they suddenly had a clever theme idea for my blog, but I hadn’t heard a thing. So, last night I sat with my friend, Chianne, drinking wine at her new apartment, and trying to decide what to write about. I want to travel. I want to see new things. I want to meet new people. I want to do things I’ve never done before. Hmmmm. Something new… “Something New!”, I excitedly shouted at Chianne. She just stared at me, waiting for me to continue because, clearly, I had a brilliant idea. “That’s what I’ll write about! Every week I will write about a new experience. A new restaurant I tried, a new park I went to, a store I’d never been to before. I’ll learn how to blow glass! It’s perfect! And I’ll call it ‘Something New’.” Well, maybe it’s not perfect, but it’s going to be a ton of fun. This week’s new thing? If you can’t guess you should start reading again from the beginning.